Heart disease affects dogs differently than humans. For example, coronary artery disease is quite common in humans, but very rare in dogs.
However, conditions involving the weakening of the heart muscle, such as congestive heart failure (CHF), are a real concern in aging canines.
Avoiding CHF and/or slowing its progression can give your dog many more healthy years by your side.
Before making any major changes to your dog’s diet or lifestyle, consult your vet to make sure it is safe to do so. Once you’ve got the all-clear, try following these 8 tips to keep your best friend’s ticker in tip-top shape!
1. Feed A Healthy Diet
A healthy body begins with a healthy diet. From skin and coat to joint health and proper organ function, nutrition plays a major role. Obesity is the enemy of a healthy heart, so be sure to choose a balanced, high quality food and keep treats to a minimum. If your pet needs to lose weight or you are having trouble establishing a healthy diet plan, consult your veterinary staff.
Related: 13 Best Heart Supplements for Dogs
2. Provide Lots Of Exercise
Even if your pet maintains a healthy weight, that doesn’t necessarily mean she is “fit.” Fitness requires frequent physical activity, including cardiac exercise. The good news is – dogs love cardio! Choose from walking, hiking, running, agility, swimming, flyball – whatever gets your pup’s heart pumping!
3. Schedule Frequent Veterinary Exams
Our pets age a good deal faster than we do – anywhere from 4 to 8 years for every 1 of our years. Imagine going that long without a checkup? It’s especially important to get your senior pooch on a schedule of at least bi-annual visits with the vet.
4. Prioritize Dental Care
Dental disease tends to rear its ugly head between the ages of 4 and 9, and has a strong connection to heart disease. The plaque, tartar and infection in a dog’s mouth can enter the bloodstream and contribute to congestive heart failure. Be sure to maintain a healthy dental care routine and see your vet if you notice problems like foul breath, sore gums, bleeding or drooling.
5. Prevent Heartworm Disease
Heartworm disease is transmitted by mosquitoes and can lead to inflammation of the blood vessels, restricted blood flow, pulmonary embolism, and heart failure. Even dogs that receive treatment could be left with permanent heart damage. Luckily, it’s easy to prevent heartworm transmission with a simple pill or topical product once a month.
6. Know Your Breed
Certain breeds, such as the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and the Boxer have genetic predispositions for specific heart conditions. It’s important to know what to watch for in your particular pup so that you are more likely to recognize symptoms early.
7. Watch for Signs of Heart Disease
95% of heart disease in dogs is considered “acquired” rather than genetic. It develops as a result of every day wear and tear, injury or illness. If you notice any of the following symptoms, seek veterinary attention:
- Dry cough after exercise
- Cough that worsens at night
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid weight loss
- Fainting spells
- Pale gums
- Swollen abdomen (pot belly)
8. Ask Your Vet For A ProBNP Test
A relatively new lab test, known as the Cardiac ProBNP test, measures how much peptide hormone is circulating through your dog’s body. Peptide is only released when the heart is pushed beyond capacity. The ProBNP is a relatively simple blood test that can be drawn by your vet at a regular office visit and sent off to be analyzed by a diagnostic lab.
Featured Image via Flickr/Brenna